CHIPLEY -- Flu season is underway.

And while it's expected to peak between December and February; flu activity increases in October, according to health officials. Officials urge everyone, especially individuals with vulnerable immune systems, such as senior citizens and children, to get vaccinated.

Vaccines may be available at local drug stores, as well as, local health departments and Northwest Florida Community Hospital.

In a National Foundation for Infectious Diseases news advisory, health officials urge individuals to get vaccinated.

"It is critical to maintain the highest level of vaccination coverage for older adults because they are disproportionately affected by flu," said Dr. Kathleen M. Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Vaccination not only reduces the chance that older adults will get the flu, it can also help keep them out of the hospital by reducing the severity of the infection and related complications if they do get the flu.”

Vaccinations have been stagnant over the past five years, while the number of flu cases doubled over last year, the advisory stated. Vaccines are readily available.

In the years 2010-2014, vaccination has reduced the risk of flu-related deaths by 51 percent among children with already compromised health conditions; 65 percent in healthy children, the advisory stated.

“This data adds to the already strong body of evidence of the benefits of flu vaccination, especially for children,” said Patricia Stinchfield, senior director of infection prevention and control at pediatric health system Children's Minnesota. “I urge parents to remember that even the healthiest children are at risk from the flu so it’s really important to get them vaccinated every year.”

The influenza virus is highly contagious; it is mainly spread through coughing, sneezing and close contact. Individuals may spread the flu before symptoms develop.

Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea.